Ever since my own dog became elderly and went through her final journey along the aging process, I’ve written about senior dogs and their similarities to elderly people. (Why do older dogs sleep so much?) During her final years, she helped me learn valuable lessons that I was able to apply to my relationships with my parents before they passed away. (Letting go, being grateful, and seeing an old dog as a bridge)
I recently read a column called, “Care of aging dog, much like that of elderly parent.” This in particular stood out to me;
In Elder World, we told each other, “If they were dogs, we could be merciful and end this.” Now it is a dog, and we can’t pull the plug. Which makes me think of the old people again, and how insistently the will to hang on demands respect. And another thing they taught me: that although caregiving feels endless, it always ends, though the empty space after doesn’t.
Carol writes that she “couldn’t have imagined that senior dog care would prove a weird resurrection of the demands of elder care” and let me say, that is valuable insight.
I think of this when I volunteer at Muttville Senior Dog Rescue. I bring up the similarities between elder parents and the sugar faces with other volunteers, fosters and potential adopters. Managing expectations are so important.
I’ll do everything that I can to give a dog the best chance at a wonderful life. Telling my stories about how living with an aging dog gave me insight into my father’s diabetes, and my mother’s fierce need for routine, so that other’s realize the emotional transformations can have a positive impact, now keeps my dog’s memory alive.
One key to having an old dog is to value every moment with them, to let go of your immediate fears or frustrations and see the finite time you have left together. When we learn to appreciate the little everyday habits of our close elderly family, those are the impressions that will return day after day when they are physically gone. This is something incredibly important whether we’re talking older parent or older dog.
I am eternally grateful that my own dog, living her life, set me on this journey of understanding and growth. Our days together, to the very end, left me with immeasurable resilience to handle my parents sudden passing a year after hers.
If you have aging parents and need some insight, look to senior dogs. After volunteering with the oldsters at Muttville for the past four years, I can reassure you that the teachings my dog started me on continue. Every week I feel lucky when I left my shift feeling like I had a Continuing Education class in the elderly, both human and canine.
And please, don’t let your fear of the eventual physical loss of a dog stop you from experience life with them. There are so many incredible unique lessons dogs offer, and in particular, older dogs. If you can’t adopt, then consider volunteering at a animal shelter, sanctuary, or senior dog rescue.
Read more of my thoughts about old dogs, and my own muse here.